Got my goose
Speaking of joinery, Neil Cronk started an interesting woodworking exercise on Twitter. Towards the end of March, Neil decided, for reasons that remain unknown to me, to take on cutting a lock rabbet miter joint, which is usually made with a router table, using hand tools instead. He live-tweeted this project, and it was fun to watch.
As a sequel, Neil decided to take on the lapped gooseneck joint, also known as a kamatsugi. In addition, Chris Wong, Adam Maxwell, and Shannon Rogers decided to join in. I decided to give this a try because someone needed to cut this joint with Japanese tools.
There are a number of variants of this joint. I decided to try making the mechigaihozotsuki kamatsugi, which is distinguished by incorporating a stub tenon in the lower half of the joint. This is a diagram of this joint, taken from The Complete Japanese Joinery. It was used for joining large beams end-to-end.
I started by milling up a 2x2 piece of walnut and crosscutting it. Each piece was laid out and marked separately. This was traditional practice. Although some of the lines could be marked together, many times it was not practical to line up large beams for this task. In fact, sometimes the layout was done by different people, relying on their skill to lay the lines out accurately.
I worked on making the male piece first. The first cut was made along the grain, defining the bottom face of the gooseneck and the top face of the half-lap. With this cut, I realized that the 210 mm ryoba that I usually use for joinery cuts was a bit small for 2x2 pieces, and switched to a 240 mm ryoba.
The next two cuts define the head of the gooseneck.
A vertical cut is made on the underside of the male piece. I knew at this point that I had already made my first mistake, which was cutting on the wrong side of the line.
Two shallow cuts are made to define the sloped back side of the goose head.
And a chisel was used to chop out the waste.
Some more saw cuts, chopping, and paring finish off the underside tenon.
This finished off the male piece. To make the female piece, I started by sawing waste off to provide the half-lap.
Sawcuts were made to define the neck, and more chiseling defined the mortise in the area of the head.
You can barely see a faint line on the side wall that is clearly not perpendicular, This is to mark the slope of the face of the female piece that matches up with the slope of the back of the goose head. I used the line as a guide to angle my chisel for paring. I don’t think achieving a perfect fit here is important. Like dovetails, the mechanical advantage will be there even if the fit isn’t perfect.
The last step was to make saw cuts and some chopping to define the mortise on the bottom of this piece. I forgot to take a picture of this part.
Then came fitting. This took up quite a bit of time, partially due to lack of experience on my part, and partially because I had to figure out which face of the joint to pare back to achieve a better fit. Finally, I was able to achieve this.
The male piece is not completely seated, but at this point the two pieces are wedged so closely together that this joint will stay this way for a very long time, even though there isn’t any glue in this joint.
After planing, though, it looked really good, for a first try.
The gap on the lower half reflects my sawing on the wrong side of that line early on in the process. It represents a two-saw kerf error. But overall, this joint came together surprisingly well, given that I didn’t mark one piece off of the other, and that I didn’t knife any of my lines before starting to cut them. Total time: about 30 minutes to mark the pieces, 1-1/2 hours for the making of the pieces, and 30 minutes of final fitting.
If you’re interested in seeing more, go to Twitter and look for #HandJoinery. This was a lot of fun.
I'm looking for books on Japanese joinery. Any suggestions?
The Complete Japanese Joinery, by Hideo Sato and Yasua Nakahara (translated by Koichi Paul Nii). Many people consider this to be the bible of Japanese joinery.
The Art of Japanese Joinery, by Kiyosi Seike. Terrific pictures, not as much detail on the uses and construction of these joints.
The Genius of Japanese Carpentry, by S. Azby Brown. More concerned with the architectural aspects of Japanese joinery, but has a nice photo essay on cutting a half-lapped gooseneck joint.
Picking just one would be difficult. I have all three books, and wouldn’t be without any of them. I would get The Complete Japanese Joinery first, but realize that you eventually get all three.
For Shannon Rogers: an 1858 parlor table made in the Modern French style, made by Jelliff & Co., Newark, and a late 18th century parlor chair made in the Rococo style, made by an unknown maker in New Brunswick, NJ.
Both can be seen at the Newark Museum.
Favorite moment of this week’s WoodTalk: the awkward pause after Marc says “If it’s made in Jersey, its gotta be good”— Shannon Rogers (@RenaissanceWW)March 18, 2014
Hanging wall cabinet, made by George Nakashima out of cherry in 1958, on display at the Newark Museum. The most interesting thing to me is the use of dowel joints alongside the expected dovetails.
Also note that the angles of these dovetails are fairly acute compared to the skinny-pin dovetails seen on many pieces. The pieces that I saw on my visit to the Nakashima workshop showed that this was a fairly consistent practice by George Nakashima.